Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote State Fair as a movie musical, and upon its release in 1945, three of its six songs -- "It Might as Well Be Spring," "That's for Me," and "It's a Grand Night for Singing" -- became chart hits for Dick Haymes (who starred in the film) and for several other artists as well. The movie itself, though slighter than Rodgers & Hammerstein's stage successes of the era, shared many of their themes. The restlessness of "It Might as Well Be Spring" recalled the seasonal lustiness of Carousel's "June Is Busting Out All Over," while "All I Owe Ioway" echoed the regional pride of the title song from Oklahoma! In transforming the film into a stage show 50 years later, a team of producers and directors that included Hammerstein's son James faced the immediate problem of finding more music. There were two songs cut from the original movie score and five written by Rodgers alone for the 1962 screen remake that might have been used, but only one, "More Than Just a Friend," was employed. Elsewhere, songs were borrowed from less successful shows such as Me and Juliet, Allegro, and Pipe Dream, and a couple of Oklahoma! castoffs were unearthed. The result isn't as patchy as you might expect, though it still doesn't add up to a great Rodgers & Hammerstein score. The cast, led by John Davidson and Kathryn Crosby and featuring Andrea McArdle and Donna McKechnie, is enthusiastic, especially Davidson. Nostalgic by definition, the show and its cast album nevertheless have been ably assembled. State Fair remains slight, but this version has charm.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann